A Guide to Buying the Right Flatware

Posted by Patrick Maness +

Sometimes there are just too many choices. Even if you know what kind of car you want to buy, for example, you then have to decide what options you want. Or, when you go to the store for snacks, you’re faced with a dozen varieties of Oreos, eight types of pears and who knows how many different flavors of chips.

Those working in the foodservice industry are presented with a lot of options, too, and they know firsthand how overwhelming making a decision can be. Even the smallest details can demand an intense decision-making process, with fine points that never enter the mind of 90 percent of your customers keeping you up at night.

One of the biggest choices people in the foodservice industry have to make involves the type of flatware they use.

Two kinds of flatware

The two basic types of restaurant flatware used in commercial dining settings are silver plate and stainless steel. Think of the difference this way: for durability and long life that’s suitable for every situation, you want the stainless steel. But for those special occasions, you have to bring out the fine silver.  

Silver plate flatware is a standard requirement for four to five-star restaurants and, needless to say, adds an incredible amount of class and style to any meal. This type of finery, however, costs you. It is much more expensive than stainless steel flatware and because it tarnishes easily and is not quite as durable, it requires careful handling and maintenance.  

The more popular choice is stainless steel flatware, which comes in four grades that are determined by how much alloy (either nickel, chrome or both) goes into the makeup of the steel. Stainless steel flatware has a number of utilitarian advantages. It’s long lasting, relatively inexpensive, durable, and as long as it doesn’t contain nickel, it is magnetic. This is especially valuable for high-volume operations that use a magnetic retrieval system to fish out the knives and forks people throw into the trash.

What’s the best kind for me?

The type of flatware you use depends on what kind of business you’re running. What kind of food do you serve and what is the average cost per meal? Who is your typical customer and who do you want your typical customer to be? What is the volume of customers? Do you do any catering or host special events?

As mentioned, to really make a statement, go with silver. But if you’re on a budget or you serve a large number of people and still want to make an impression, you can always use heavy 18/0 stainless steel grade flatware. The secret here is that people often associate heavier forks and knives with higher quality. This simple tip allows you to cut costs while maintaining a high-class appearance.

Another big decision to make is how much flatware you’ll need. Each kind of operation requires a different number of dinner knives, tea spoons and other pieces. Determining how much of any one item you need to order is partially based on seating capacity, the likelihood of theft and how quickly you can wash and turnover flatware during peak times.

For a handy chart that will help you arrive at that exact number of bouillon spoons you need to order, take a look at our comprehensive Resource Guide to Flatware, which you can download for free. Here you will find numerous tips and a good deal of helpful information that a restaurateur or foodservice operations manager just can’t go without.

In this blog series, we’ll delve further into some of the biggest issues in the world of flatware. The blog topics will include:

The discipline of rolling flatware

The fine art of rolling flatware — tucking the forks, spoons and knives in a perfectly folded napkin — is often practiced but seldom mastered. In this blog, we’ll take a humorous look at the headaches and conundrums that go into rolling and managing the flatware in your restaurant.

Flatware and customer germaphobia

There is a growing number of people bringing along their own flatware or requesting plastic flatware from restaurants. Why? Germs. And it’s led to a lot of unnecessary complaints and headaches among servers. What is this obsession with germs, and how can restaurants up their game to make sure flatware is clean and everyone is happy?

How to get your restaurant flatware sparkling

Flatware, like diamonds, look best when they shine. We’ll take a look at some tips to get your silver and stainless steel flatware sparkling so they’re fit to be placed before a king.

The differences between varieties of stainless steel flatware

There are four main grades or varieties of stainless steel flatware, and each has certain advantages and different intended uses. In this blog we’ll look at the properties of each, and when where they work best.

Because it’s the middle ground between someone’s mouth and the food on their plate, you can’t be too careful when it comes to buying the right flatware. Reading these blogs will give you the resources you need to make informed decisions that will benefit your restaurant, cafeteria or catering business.

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